The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin office is in the Joseph and Rose Ages Family Building – the location of the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) – on the Jewish Community Campus. I try to arrive an hour or so early several times per week so that I can swim in the SJCC’s terrific indoor pool. (How lucky am I to have such facilities downstairs from my office?)
Today – I’m writing on August 29 just before this issue goes to press – was one of those mornings I came early to swim. But, as I arrived at about 8 am, I saw several fire trucks and ambulances from the Ottawa Fire Services’ Hazardous Material Unit pulling into the parking lot.
Those of us who work in Jewish facilities have a heightened awareness of security. “While there is no indication of an increased threat in Ottawa,” as Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman wrote in a message to the community this week about security issues, we are aware of the increased incidents of anti-Semitism that occurred around the world this summer during Israel’s war with Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. And the horrible and senseless murders by a neo-Nazi outside a JCC in Kansas this past April remain a vivid memory.
So, when I saw the ambulances and fire trucks pull up beside Hillel Lodge, I assumed there must have been some sort of threat or emergency there.
But my minded quickly started to ease when I didn’t see the first responders acting with any sense of urgency – and I also quickly realized there were no police cars on the scene. Surely, in the event of an emergency, the police would be there.
Before I could walk over to see what was what, the fire trucks and ambulances pulled out of the parking lot, turned onto Broadview Avenue and parked again in the Ottawa Jewish Community School parking lot near the SJCC’s outdoor pool.
“Was there a problem at the school?” I wondered.
It turned out the firefighters and paramedics from the Hazardous Materials Unit were at the SJCC to spend the morning working with the teenagers taking an SJCC training course for potential lifeguards.
So, while, thankfully, the first responders were not on the Jewish Community Campus for an emergency situation, seeing them arrive before I knew the reason they were there was a powerful reminder that we should all be vigilant as we go about our business – whether on the Jewish Community Campus or anywhere.
Operation Protective Edge
With the seeming end of Operation Protective Edge, one can only hope that all Palestinians will come to understand that the road to a future for their children lies in building a constructive society and state, not in attempting to destroy Israel. Terrorism only leads to more hate, more destruction and more death. Two states for two people – no matter how hard it is to achieve – remains the way forward.